For many with entrepreneurial aspirations, franchise ownership is a viable way to become your own boss.
Wade and Theresa Palmer took a chance, selling a successful business in Alaska and moving to Washington State. It was there that they accidentally fell into the home inspection business. Realizing they enjoyed the work, they set out to find the right franchise to buy into.
WIN Home Inspection won their hearts and their investment money. According to the Palmers, WIN stood out from other opportunities by offering a challenging-yet-satisfying business. “WIN fits my character. It's a mystery every day, a little puzzle to solve. Even though you're doing the same thing every day, what you're looking at is always different,” Wade says.
With so many franchises available, choosing the right one for you can prove to be difficult. Here are 10 questions to consider when looking at your options.
1. Will this be a business I enjoy running? You need to find a business that matches your interests and motivates you to do well. You may spend most of your waking hours at your business (in the beginning, at least), so make sure it’s something you love doing. If you’re a vegetarian, a burger joint may not be the right place for you. But, if you love caring for others and find joy in making those around you feel good you may want to consider a home health franchise.
2. Does the franchise have a good reputation? Be sure the company is in good standing within your community. Are there lawsuits pending against the franchise? Would you, as a customer, purchase a product or service from this brand?
3. Are other owners within the franchise satisfied with the company? Take some time to speak with other franchisees. Are they happy with the overall culture of the company? Do they receive the support they need from the franchisor? Consider connecting with people who are no longer with the company to get their viewpoints.
4. Do I have a satisfactory location to open the franchise? Location. Location. Location. It can be one of the most critical business decisions, especially when opening a brick-and-mortar business that depends on foot traffic. Do you have a place in mind to grow your business? Does the franchisor require certain specifications such as traffic flow or accessibility?
5. Is the area familiar with this brand or will I need to build the business from the ground up? If you’re considering a well-known, nationally recognized brand like Pizza Hut you may have less initial leg-work to do since the name itself and the iconic logo do a great deal of marketing for you. However, if you’re thinking of opening up a Mellow Mushroom restaurant you may need to educate and convince your local community that you serve good pizza.
6. What is the cost structure for buying into the franchise? Buying into a franchise can be expensive. Buying into a successful, well-known franchise can be very expensive. Additionally, many franchises require royalty fees. Some require weekly payments based upon profits, while others ask for payment on a yearly basis. You need to be prepared to give a portion of your profits to the parent company. Just be sure you know how much.
7. Will the franchise provide assistance in business dealings? Will they micromanage my business? Many franchises will offer their owners opportunity for assistance. Franchises often allocate or match funds for marketing, provide marketing materials and offer business assistance. For example, if you’re a great people person and can close any sale, but you have no experience or knowledge in bookkeeping or IT, does the company offer assistance to help you with these aspects? At a minimum, do they offer courses to train their franchisees?
With this in mind, it’s important to understand how heavily the franchisor will manage your business. Do you want a hands-on company or do you want to run this as your own business?
For the Palmers, it was WIN’s marketing strategies that really made the difference. “If you follow the WIN marketing system that's in place, you aren't reinventing the wheel. Follow it and you'll be successful. Don't second guess it, do what they say. They've already figured out what works,” Wade says.
8. Will I have a say in my franchise's inventory? Will you be able to buy products you deem a fit for your franchise or will you need to stick to the products specified by the company. Some franchisees want to add to their inventory with various products or services. Some franchises are okay with that, others are very strict on their inventory guidelines and may impose restrictions and penalties for deviating.
9. Are there employee training opportunities? Does the company offer employee training or must you do it yourself. Many businesses have their own “universities” providing necessary and mandated franchise training. However, some do not and it’s left up to the franchise owner to establish an in-house training program.
10. Will I be satisfied with my work-life balance? Is this a franchise that will require you to spend every waking moment at the business or will you be able to separate your working life from your personal life? Ask how other owners are balancing their home life and business.
Franchises take a lot of the guesswork out of starting your own business, but you still need to do your research. Ask the right questions to make sure you'll be satisfied not just professionally, but personally as well.
Angela Stringfellow is a PR and marcomm consultant and social media strategist offering full-circle marketing solutions to businesses. Angela blogs via Contently.com.
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